Love it or hate it, sometimes you want to see things explode on the screen. In the surge of visual effects in the late ’90s and early 2000s, many directors stepped in to take advantage of the advancements and make their films as bombastic and outrageous as possible. None did it quite so well as Michael Bay.
While he’s best known for his over-the-top displays of destruction and violence, Bay’s films’ ability to provoke a thorough laugh has long been slept on. It may be because Bay’s action is so overwhelming, but the comedy slipped in between the action is underappreciated and deserves a nod.
‘Transformers’ (2007) — The Interrogation
Police interrogations are usually supposed to be anything but funny. But when Sam Witwicky (played by the accomplished Shia Labeouf) is pulled in for questioning in the wake of his Transformer coming to life and wreaking havoc in an abandoned factory yard, the result is a hilarious caricature of police questioning.
The officer questioning Sam seems to have seen one too many cop movies and lays on the grizzled cop shtick very thick. After confusing Mojo (Sam’s dog) for a brand of street drugs and accusing Sam of “eyeballing his piece,” Sam throws the officer’s bizarre intensity back in his face and asks in a whisper, “are you on drugs?” The scene is a visual representation of “you’re doing too much,” and Labeouf’s aloof performance makes it even more hilarious.
‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ (2009) — The Butcher Shop
After the events of the first film shut Sector 7 down, Sam Witwicky and company head to a butcher shop to meet with an old friend, John Turturro’s Seymour Simmons.
Seeing Simmons in a butcher’s uniform after his fall from grace and bickering with his mother is funny enough. The scene is elevated by Turturro’s always strong performance, his manic, annoyed demeanor, and his exchange with an angry toothless butcher’s assistant whose dream is to afford a new set of teeth he saw in a SkyMall catalog. The whole scene is frenetic, chaotic, and hilarious.
‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ (2011) — Stomping a Car
As Sam and Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) leave her work, tensions are high as Sam feels a little jealous and threatened by how handsome and flirtatious her boss, Gould (Patrick Dempsey), is. Sam’s short fuse blows completely when his car won’t start.
Sam’s remedy for the situation is repeatedly kicking his car’s front end in rapid succession like a metal bongo. What makes the scene funniest is the quick cut from the bottled rage in the car to the rhythmic slamming outside it. The scene became a meme, was made into a gif, green-screened, and now lives in internet infamy.
‘The Rock’ (1996) — The Hairdresser in the Elevator
The movie is overflowing with Nicolas Cage in one of his more eccentric performances, yelling lines that should be whispered and freaking out when a moderate reaction is appropriate. Pit anyone against the calm and collected Sean Connery, and they will always look high-strung by comparison.
In the middle of a haircut, John Patrick Mason (Connery) throws an FBI agent off a balcony and makes a desperate escape to the elevator. Cowering in the corner of the lift is the hairdresser, who pleads with Mason through teary eyes that he only wants to know whether he liked his haircut. The exchange is surrounded by intense music and the threat of violence, which makes the hairdresser’s emotional concerns even more hysterical.
‘Armageddon’ (1998) — Testing Scene
The world is coming to an end as an asteroid hurtles towards Earth. That is unless a group of rough-neck oil drillers can drill to the center of the rock of mass destruction and detonate a nuclear bomb. The concept itself is laughable, and the group of men put to the task is pretty out there too.
During their psychological and physical evaluation for suitability in space, the group lets their colors shine. The entire montage is pure comedy: from the nurse singing the national anthem while performing a colonoscopy, to Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan) dancing on his bed in a leopard Speedo, to Rockhound (played by the always captivating Steve Buscemi) seeing naked women in all the Rorschach ink blots. It’s a perfect introduction to all the characters and hilarious to boot.
‘Bad Boys II’ (2003) — Daughter’s Boyfriend
Detective Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) is more than just a cop. He’s a father. A very protective father at that. When he’s not busting drug syndicates, he and his partner, Mike Lowrey (Will Smith), take particular pleasure in putting the fear of God into Marcus’s daughter’s prospective boyfriend.
The poor suitor comes to the door with a nice button-down, styled hair, and pleasant demeanor but is met with a militant Marcus and an intense line of questioning. Mike stumbles into the ploy feigning inebriation, waving a gun around, and spouting expletives and very transparent threats to the terrified kid. The act, while likely effective, scares the boy straight and gives the audience a thorough chuckle.
‘Bad Boys II’ — Accidental Ecstasy
You’re not supposed to dip into your own supply, but after a drug bust, Marcus accidentally ingests ecstasy right before they meet with their chief to discuss the case. The result is an absolutely disastrous late-night debriefing.
The drugs hit Marcus right at the chief’s door, and it is all downhill from there. While Mike tries to convince their chief of the case, Marcus wanders around the house groping objects, belligerently complimenting a fish, and drinking from a flower vase. The scene’s juxtaposition between Marcus’s ridiculous behavior and the very explicit/sobering evidence Mike presents makes it one of the more comedic and memorable in the movie.
‘Bad Boys’ — The Tire Shop
When Marcus and Mike’s investigation leads them to Jojo (Michael Imperioli), an informant that works in a tire shop, the pair opt to play a game of “crazy cop, crazier cop” when he won’t give them the information they are looking for.
When Mike puts a gun to Jojo’s head, Marcus adopts the role of panicked partner and runs out into the hallway in distress, pleading with Jojo to give them the information they want. Marcus’s hilarious fake concern is a soundtrack to the informant’s confession and includes a line about how much brain fragments stink when they get on your clothes and the line—almost sung—“tell him something, Jo!” Smith’s intense, dramatic performance mixed with Lawrence’s irreverent blend perfectly into a hilarious moment.
‘The Island’ (2005) — Bar Scene
Sheltered characters entering the real world is a trope that often lends itself to comedy. When Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson) break free from the island, their first encounters with real people are as awkward and amusing as expected.
The two arrive at a dive bar looking for help from a contact, and their ignorance of real-world nomenclature and idioms results in some priceless moments. When the bartender tells Lincoln the man they’re looking for is “taking a dump in the can,” Lincoln leaves in distress—as if their contact is in trouble—and gravely informs Jordan, “I have to go; he’s taking a dump in a can.” The scene is beautifully capped by Jordan looking at the ceiling after the bartender asks if she wants her drink “straight up.”
‘Pain & Gain’ (2013) — The Neighborhood Watch
When three gym-bros with a propensity for violence and aspirations of wealth kidnap and extort a man, unsurprisingly, their hair-brained plan does not go smoothly.
The three start a neighborhood watch to blend into the neighborhood of the man whose life they stole. The scene hinges on Dwayne Johnson’s impressive acting chops as Paul Doyle, as Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) attempts to act professional and upstanding and all that Paul can do is interject with nonsensical, unrelated one-liners like, “bad guys are everywhere,” and “I’ve been to prison, and it sucks.” The presentation is a mess, fueled by Paul’s few remaining brain cells and drugs being snorted behind a bulletin board.
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